Monday, June 27, 2011


Title: The Conversion of Saint Paul
Artist: Karel Dujardin
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 186.7 x 134.6 cm
Date: 1662
Location: National Gallery, London.


Paul the Apostle, also called the Apostle Paul, Saul of Tarsus, and Saint Paul (c. AD 5 – c. AD 67), was one of the most influential early Christian missionaries, with his writings forming a considerable portion of the New Testament. His influence on Christian thinking has been of utmost significance due to his role as a prominent apostle of Christianity during the spreading of the Gospel through early Christian communities across the Roman Empire. Before his conversion, Paul, then known as Saul, was a zealous Pharisee who intensely persecuted the followers of Jesus. The Conversion of Paul the Apostle, as depicted in the Christian Bible, refers to the event in the life of Paul of Tarsus which led him to cease persecuting early Christians and to himself become a follower of Jesus. As described in the Acts of the Apostles 9:3-9 “As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.”

The painting is unusual, though by no means unique, as a Dutch painting of the later 17th century representing a dramatic religious theme. Paul is at the lower right. In the sky at the upper left cherubs hold a torch and an olive branch. The composition is based on a print by Antonio Tempesta, whose work was widely circulated in the Netherlands and influenced a number of Dutch artists, among them Rembrandt and Ferdinand Bol. The size of the painting and the fact that its subject is relatively rare in Dutch art of the time suggest that it was specially commissioned. The patron may have been a member of the family of the first recorded owner, Jan François d'Orvielle. There is another work by the artist of similar dimensions showing 'Saint Paul healing the Sick at Lystra' (now Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum), which is said to have formerly borne the date 1663.

Karel Dujardin (September 1622 – November 1678) was a Dutch painter and etcher, born in Amsterdam in 1622. Although active as a portrait and history painter, he is best known for his Italianate landscapes with figures and animals featured prominently. The animal paintings of Paulus Potter influenced him, as well as the landscapes of his master, Nicolaes Berchem. Dujardin was the son of a little-known painter, Guilliam du Gardin. According to his biographer Houbraken, he trained with Berchem; he later visited Rome. In the early 1650s he is recorded in Amsterdam and in 1656 in The Hague. By 1659 he had apparently returned to Amsterdam. He visited Italy again in 1675, and he died in Venice three years later.

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